Protests against the results of Iraq’s recent parliamentary election have turned violent in Baghdad, with demonstrators denouncing “fraud” clashing with security forces outside the capital’s high-security Green Zone.
Supporters of pro-Iranian groups, which suffered large losses in the polls, threw stones at security forces, who fired tear gas and shot in the air to disperse the crowd on Friday.
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Gunfire could be occasionally heard on the protest site, with two protesters reported dead and dozens wounded on both sides. There was no official confirmation of the casualties.
The results of the October 10 parliamentary vote showed that a bloc led by influential Muslim Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr won 73 seats,
maintaining its position as the largest group in Iraq’s 329-strong parliament.
The Conquest (Fatah) Alliance – the political arm of the multiparty Hashd al-Shaabi, a pro-Iranian former paramilitary force, won about 15 seats, according to preliminary results. In the last parliament, it held 48, making it the second-largest bloc.
Reporting from Baghdad, Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed said the disgruntled protesters branded Friday “the last chance for the government [and the] election commission to hold a recount of all the votes”.
Iraq’s independent election commission received more than 1,300 appeals following the elections, lodged by the “Shia cooperation framework” – an ad hoc group consisting mostly of Shia groups that performed poorly in the election.
After an initial assessment, the commission threw out the majority of the complaints, citing a “lack of evidence”, and said it would release its final decisions on the rest of the appeals before submitting them to the Supreme Court for final certification.
It is unclear when the final election results will be announced, although they are not likely to change significantly.
The election, which was staged months ahead of schedule, came amid widespread frustration with Iraq’s political elite. Turnout stood at 41 percent, the lowest level since the fall of Saddam Hussein following the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“So many people in the streets say that they do not believe in this electoral process, because it’s only reproducing the same old parties,” Abdelwahed said.
An unprecedented protest movement broke out two years ago and railed against the political class running the oil-rich but poverty-stricken country where youth unemployment is soaring.
National elections were brought forward as a concession to protesters who had also complained that Iraq was beholden to Iran. Factions of the Hashd have faced accusations of targeting activists.